Friday, August 8, 2008

Of Opening Ceremonies and Nationalism

How stunning! The fireworks! The drums! Those Chinese can really put on a show!

The problem, though, is that the opening ceremonies serve to reinforce the worst of the Olympics: nationalistic fervor.

Grouping athletes by country and showcasing the host nation's prowess is a spectacle that coincides more with the era of the two world wars, but that in the age of globalization rings anachronistic.

For an Olympics that is primarily in the service of global corporations (and that justifies their business ties with China), it would be better to group athletes by their sponsors. "Go team Nike!" and "Go Speedo!" would replace the oh-so-obnoxious chants of "USA! USA!" that make me wish I were Canadian.

The best athletes would be on Team Pepsi or Team Adidas, the less gifted on Team Enron or Team Chuck-a-rama.

And instead of the traditional playing of national anthems, winners could be serenaded by their sponsor's corporate jingle. "Please rise for the playing of McDonald's theme song, 'I'm Lovin' It.'"

It already can't get much more corporate... and it would be a little more honest than the current system. But since nationalism sells better than any jingle, I better get my earplugs dusted off to muffle the chants of "USA! USA! USA! USA!" etc.


SM Sprenger said...

Corry--I realize this is a joke, but the joke is also an attempt at criticism. You're implying the corporations are using nationalism for marketing purposes as if the nationalist sentiment is no longer there in advance or that it's now inauthentic because of global capitalism. Questions:

1. Isn't nationalism better displayed in its sublimated form in sports than in real conflict? If the sentiment cannot be entirely eliminated (and, for now, it cannot be), isn't it better to drain it off into simulated forms of competition and violence? (Orwell's idea: Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.)

2. Wouldn't eliminating corporate sponsorship make the Olympics even more nationalistic by relying on nations to finance athletes? Wouldn't national sponsorship create even higher expectations and more pressure to win in the name of the state? Would would be an alternative?

Derek said...

As for the opening ceremonies - check out this article

In summary, TV channels used computer images to simulate the actual fireworks that were going on since they couldn't get actual good footage. Would you rather see the real thing or be blown away? Maybe this can be related to the post on technology and broken world records. Would you rather have records that endure or find ways to help everyone "dope" and continue to be impressed by humanity.